“You’re getting slower, aren’t you”?
Terry’s question was direct, but honest. After 19 days of continuous cycling without a break since Fort Chiswell in Virginia, fatigue was beginning to set in. I found myself looking more and more at my feet and less and less at the landscape. I’d noticed no change in Terry’s energy levels whatsoever.
“Are you sure you’re not a cycling robot sent back in time from the future”? I asked him. “And if you are, did they finally find a way to stop the chain falling off”?
Terry gave a wry smile, took a gulp of 3 in 1 oil, and the deal was done. Tomorrow would be a rest day – and Pittsburg with a population of more than 20,000 was the place to un-saddle.
Meanwhile we had to get there, so after popping into the Handy Hut to finish our Pizza from the night before and to slurp some coffee we headed outside, seemingly chatted to the entire population of Everton, found out the secret cure for muscle pain (it’s mustard apparently) and then hit the road.
This time we really were riding out the dog end of the Ozarks, a few hills towards Golden City, about 30 miles away, but mere pimples compared to what we’ve been used to. But it’s hot again, so we are forever topping up on the sun cream and glistening with beads of oily sweat (steady ladies). At the crest of one hill we bumped into Charlie from Chicago, cycling from San Francisco to Yorktown.
Almost all the riders we’ve met travelling East so far have started in or near California. Although the TransAm officially starts/ends in Oregon it’s too early to meet cyclists heading our way from that far north, as there would still have been snow in the Rockies. So for anyone wanting to head East earlier the answer is to start further south along the Pacific coast. Even so Charlie had woken one morning to find four inches of snow outside his tent.
Fifteen miles out we stopped at an agricultural business selling anything from tractors to ploughs. This is deep into farming country and a continuous stream of big trucks pulled up outside, dispensing dungaree-clad farmers checking out the latest equipment. We fueled up on Gaterade and, with the promise of just a few final hills to go, headed for Golden City.
This place is a bit of a Mecca for TransAmerican cyclists due to the existence of Cookys, the famous pie-shop and a must for anyone making the crossing. After the heat of 30 miles in the sun the sight of row upon row of pies from Dutch Apple to Chocolate Pecan and Cherry Rhubarb was sheer heaven. With a spoonful of ice-cream on the side, we were soon devouring our second helping, washed down with coffee and vanilla milkshake.
The great thing about these key locations on the trail is that they all have guest books to sign, so you can check on the progress of other riders. As we ate all the pies, we discovered that Keenan, Louis and Jerry and Jonathan, had all been in earlier that day. With any luck we’d catch them up in Pittsburg.
Then followed 33 and a half flat and impossibly straight miles past cornfields towards Pittsburg. Four miles out we crossed the border into Kansas, but bizarrely there was no state sign to herald our arrival. The only way we knew we had entered our fifth state were the ‘Keep Kansas Clean’ signs. Perhaps they’d done such a good job they’d removed the sign as well since there were two wooden posts standing rather forlorn around the border line.
On arrival in Pittsburgh we headed to Lincoln Park as a possible campsite (it was once an area used for strip-mining in this former coal town). The park was vast, with playgrounds, lakes and numerous baseball pitches where Little League training was in full swing while parents watched from the bleachers. But for camping the park was far too exposed, we couldn’t safely leave our kit, so we headed for an RV park a little further down Broadway. On route we popped into Tailwinds bike shop where Jonathan was trying to sort out his Trucker, and also met up with Tuan and Jesse who have always been about a day ahead of us.
Down at the RV park, far better than the one at Marshfield, there was a lot more grass for camping, decent showers and friendly folk in huge Winnebegos offering help and supplies if we needed it. Also there was Mike from Chicago making the trip on a recumbent and combining his travels with his passion for photography.
Before long Jesse and Tuan showed up and we were soon all drinking beers, courtesy of Tuan, and recounting stories of hills, dogs and the hospitality of strangers.
So we’ve made it to Kansas – and the vast plains of America beckon. But tomorrow, we rest.
Today’s Miles: 66
Miles since First Landing: 1634